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It can be difficult to speak when you forget a word.

Circumlocution Strategies

Circumlocution Strategies

The content in this article is linked to this recent podcast:

Speaking Exams - The Long Turn

In this podcast, we spoke about things called circumlocution strategies.

Learner Training

What are circumlocution strategies?

When learning a language, circumlocution strategies are the strategies that you use to describe a word or phrase when you don't know it in English. If you have good circumlocution strategies they will stop you hesitating too much or getting blocked when you are speaking. There are lots of strategies that you can use and we will look at some common circumlocution strategies in this article. 

Learning to Circumlocute

There are lots of ways you can practise your circumlocution strategies. Here are some of the most common ways you can practise:

Tip 1

Use relative clauses - If you don't know a word, you should be able to explain it with a definition. When you define a word it's a good idea to use relative clauses. They usually begin with relative pronouns such as; which, that, who and where etc. 

We use different relative pronouns or adverbs for different reasons. When we are talking about people we can use 'that' or 'who'. Have a look the table below for some more relative pronouns and how to use them. Look at the examples. Do you know the words that are being described? Write your answers in the comments section.

Relative Pronoun/Adverb
When do we use it?
Example
that
To talk about things and people.
The ******* is the player that talks to the referee.
which
To talk about things.
A ***** is a type of football action which is done without touching the ball.
who
To talk about people.
The ******* is the man who makes all the decisions.
where
To talk about places. 
The ****** ****** is where the match kicks off.
when
To talk about time.
***** **** is when a lot of goals are scored.

Tip 2

Use synonyms - If you forget a word try to think of an easier word with a similar meaning. It's often unnecessary to think of a complex piece of vocabulary to get your point across. Look at the table below. Do you know what a simple synonym could be? Write your answers in the comments section.

Easy Difficult
  strenuous
  exhausting
  baffling
  grim
  intricate

Tip 3

It's a type of - If you don't know a word you might be able to describe the word by using phrases such as it's a type of ... or it's a kind of ... For example, if you try to describe a pomegranate you might start by saying:

It's a kind of fruit, it's red and it has lots and lots of little seeds in it.

Can you think of a difficult word and describe it in the comments section? Start your definition by writing: It's a kind of ... or It's a type of ...

Quiz

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Comment

What do you think?

Do you ever get blocked when you forget a word? What circumlocution strategies do you use?

In the article above, we gave you three tips and three tasks for you to do. Write your answers below.

We have lots of connected content to this week's podcast. Look on the side or bottom of this page for all our extra content!

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Comments

Muyiwa
01/02/2018
NG
1
points

It's nice to have an online class to learn English and most importantly free as well share insight with other learners.

circumlocution is a word i have just learnt today as it were and i have also realised that i have been circumlocusing before now and not knowing it. This meduim is an eye opener.


Muyiwa
01/02/2018 09:38
Nigeria
Manchester United
1

It's nice to have an online class to learn English and most importantly free as well share insight with other learners.

circumlocution is a word i have just learnt today as it were and i have also realised that i have been circumlocusing before now and not knowing it. This meduim is an eye opener.

Rich's picture
Rich
01/02/2018
ES
370
points

Hi Muyiwa

Thanks for your positive feedback and I hope you enjoy the Premier Skills English website!

Rich - The Premier Skills English Team


Rich's picture
Rich
01/02/2018 12:25
Spain
Liverpool
370

Hi Muyiwa

Thanks for your positive feedback and I hope you enjoy the Premier Skills English website!

Rich - The Premier Skills English Team

Mustafa Ahmed
31/01/2018
SD
1
points

How I know that


Mustafa Ahmed
31/01/2018 11:58
Sudan
Liverpool
1

How I know that

Rich's picture
Rich
31/01/2018
ES
370
points

Hi Mustafa

Welcome to Premier Skills English.

I didn't understand your comment well. Can you explain?

Rich - The Premier Skills EnglishTeam


Rich's picture
Rich
31/01/2018 12:44
Spain
Liverpool
370

Hi Mustafa

Welcome to Premier Skills English.

I didn't understand your comment well. Can you explain?

Rich - The Premier Skills EnglishTeam

kwesimanifest's picture
kwesimanifest
30/01/2018
GH
4662
points

In instances when I suspect I would get blocked, I normally use a description to define what I want to talk about and I helps me have a good flow in my conversations.


kwesimanifest's picture
kwesimanifest
30/01/2018 10:11
Ghana
Manchester United
4662

In instances when I suspect I would get blocked, I normally use a description to define what I want to talk about and I helps me have a good flow in my conversations.

lakerwang
29/01/2018
CN
252
points

1. The captain is the player that talks to the referee.
2.A feint is a type of football action which is done without touching the ball. (I'm not sure, because there are too few of cues)
3.The referee is the man who makes all the decisions.
4.The centre circle is where the match kicks off.
5.score time is when a lot of goals are scored.(Acturally I don't work out the phrase, so I make up it)

Easy Difficult
intense strenuous
tiring exhausting
puzzling baffling
cruel grim
complex intricate


lakerwang
29/01/2018 13:03
China
Chelsea
252

1. The captain is the player that talks to the referee.
2.A feint is a type of football action which is done without touching the ball. (I'm not sure, because there are too few of cues)
3.The referee is the man who makes all the decisions.
4.The centre circle is where the match kicks off.
5.score time is when a lot of goals are scored.(Acturally I don't work out the phrase, so I make up it)

Easy Difficult
intense strenuous
tiring exhausting
puzzling baffling
cruel grim
complex intricate

Rich's picture
Rich
29/01/2018
ES
370
points

Hi Lakerwang

You've got a lot of the answers here but there are a few missing. I've asked Ahmed Adam in the comment below to work with you on this. What do you think? I think that between the two of you, you should be able to get all the answers. 

Rich - The Premier Skills English Team


Rich's picture
Rich
29/01/2018 13:33
Spain
Liverpool
370

Hi Lakerwang

You've got a lot of the answers here but there are a few missing. I've asked Ahmed Adam in the comment below to work with you on this. What do you think? I think that between the two of you, you should be able to get all the answers. 

Rich - The Premier Skills English Team

Ahmed Adam Mamado's picture
Ahmed Adam Mamado
27/01/2018
SD
2859
points

Correct me.

Honestly, I constantly get blocked when I forget an English word and many times I use relative clauses to get my point across.

Activity 1
1- The "*******" is the player that talks to the referee.

2- A "press" is a type of football action which is done without touching the ball.

3- The "*******" is the man who makes all the decisions.

4- The "football stadium" is where the match kicks off.

5- "extra time" is when a lot of goals are scored.

NO 2,4,5 are less likely to be the words being looked for!

Activity 2
Easy: simple
Difficult: hard
strenuous: no idea
exhausting: very tiring
baffling: no idea
grim: no idea
intricate: no idea

Activity 3
It's a type of transportation which is very common in India. It has two wheels at the back and one wheel at the front with no steering wheel. Instead, something a bit different is used to control its directions and speed just in the same way it's done in the motorbike. Finally, it has a leather-roofed room for only three people. So I'm not sure if you can call it a car!


Ahmed Adam Mamado's picture
Ahmed Adam Mamado
27/01/2018 08:04
Sudan
Liverpool
2859

Correct me.

Honestly, I constantly get blocked when I forget an English word and many times I use relative clauses to get my point across.

Activity 1
1- The "*******" is the player that talks to the referee.

2- A "press" is a type of football action which is done without touching the ball.

3- The "*******" is the man who makes all the decisions.

4- The "football stadium" is where the match kicks off.

5- "extra time" is when a lot of goals are scored.

NO 2,4,5 are less likely to be the words being looked for!

Activity 2
Easy: simple
Difficult: hard
strenuous: no idea
exhausting: very tiring
baffling: no idea
grim: no idea
intricate: no idea

Activity 3
It's a type of transportation which is very common in India. It has two wheels at the back and one wheel at the front with no steering wheel. Instead, something a bit different is used to control its directions and speed just in the same way it's done in the motorbike. Finally, it has a leather-roofed room for only three people. So I'm not sure if you can call it a car!

Rich's picture
Rich
29/01/2018
ES
370
points

Hi Ahmed Adam

You've got a lot of the answers here but there are a few missing. I've left Lakerwang's answers open in the comments above. I was thinking maybe you could work together on these answers. What do you think?

I know the answer to activity 3. A very good definition. Let's see if anybody gets it.

RIch - The Premier Skills English Team


Rich's picture
Rich
29/01/2018 13:31
Spain
Liverpool
370

Hi Ahmed Adam

You've got a lot of the answers here but there are a few missing. I've left Lakerwang's answers open in the comments above. I was thinking maybe you could work together on these answers. What do you think?

I know the answer to activity 3. A very good definition. Let's see if anybody gets it.

RIch - The Premier Skills English Team

Ahmed Adam Mamado's picture
Ahmed Adam Mamado
30/01/2018
SD
2859
points

That's a brilliant idea teacher Rich! As for activity three's answer, Great you got it and yeah let's!


Ahmed Adam Mamado's picture
Ahmed Adam Mamado
30/01/2018 17:31
Sudan
Liverpool
2859

That's a brilliant idea teacher Rich! As for activity three's answer, Great you got it and yeah let's!

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Learner Training: Circumlocution Strategies